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The Retail Glass Is Half Full

After the last blog series – Top 5 Deathbed Regrets of a Dying Mall – a long-time reader suggested to me that perhaps we were writing about too many negative topics. In our defense, it can be a bit tricky to make writings about death read spirited. However, we, as positive, glass-half-full people, do get his point, and while our last series focused on what mall owners are doing wrong, we want to emphasize that many mall owners are getting it right. These successful mall operators tend to subscribe to one common tenet (pun intended) and that is they strive to create the best retail environment possible for their guests.

The best and most fitting place to start is with the author of the tagline “Creating Extraordinary Retail Environments” and that is with Taubman. A. Alfred Taubman, founder of Taubman, is widely credited with being a mall pioneer, but that is only part of his story. The biggest impact Alfred Taubman had on the mall industry was that he developed malls with a merchant’s mindset, incorporating retail precepts into every property he touched. Even after Taubman’s passing, Taubman, the company, is still the ‘merchant of merchants’ and their retail centric approach continues to create extraordinary retail environments. Taubman puts its focus in the right place and that is a maniacal focus on creating the best mall experience

for their customers.

What does that mean? The formula is bringing together the best merchants under one roof while providing a great physical environment. Taubman does a phenomenal job of creating a great physical environment while not overshadowing or overpowering the retailers. It’s a delicate balance but Taubman knows the retailers are the stars of the show. Taubman has followed this winning-formula for 65 years to create such trophy malls as Beverly Center (www.BeverlyCenter.com), International Plaza (www.shopinternationalplaza.com) and The Mall at Short Hills (www.shopshorthills.com) to name a few.

While Taubman is one of the leaders in the sector, there are others, including The Forbes Company (www.TheForbesCompany.com), who is  getting it right. Forbes has created some beautiful shopping environments and in turn, their malls have grown into powerhouses.  The Gardens (www.TheGardensMall.com), Somerset Collection (www.TheSomersetCollection.com) and Mall at Millenia (www.MallatMillenia.com) are some powerful A Malls. A hallmark of a Forbes mall is stunning architecture, which sets the stage for a special retail experience.

Westfield Corp (www.westfieldcorp.com) is another sharp developer, and with their vertically-integrated model, Westfield maximizes each of their assets with a focus on redevelopment. Westfield has created great malls by redeveloping them to give their customer what they want and activating their centers with multiple uses and in many cases a focus on food. Century City (www.Westfield.com/CenturyCity) is a perfect example. Already a dominant property, Westfield is redeveloping Century City to the tune of $800 million. This bold move underscores how to have success in mall business. No matter how successful a mall is, there is always room for improvement.

One of my favorite malls is NorthPark Center (www.NorthParkCenter.com) in Dallas. With its sleek, modern design, NorthPark is a $1.0 billion behemoth. With its prized art collection, NorthPark offers one of the best shopping environments in America. At a time when many malls look alike and are littered with RMU’s NorthPark continues to curate and evolve its art collection.

Can all malls be a NorthPark? No. Can every developer approach their mall like Taubman, Forbes or Westfield? No. But by keeping their principles in mind and by doing the right thing and thinking long-term, mall owners can create extraordinary shopping experiences. Overall the mall industry is struggling and we have chronicled the plight of many B Malls and C Malls in this blog. Yet there are many mall owners creating spectacular retail places today, and overall we believe the glass to be half full in the mall world . As sharp mall owners continue to evolve their centers and focus on creating the best retail environment, the mall space will be strong for years to come.

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